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Bridget Phillipson MP alarmed by new child poverty figures in north east

Bridget Phillipson, Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South, has reacted with alarm to the publication of a new report by the End Child Poverty Coalition showing that almost a third of children in the north east are living in poverty. According to the Coalition – a group of charities, faith groups and unions – there are now more than 3.5million children living in such conditions across the UK.[1]

Whilst child poverty exists in every part of the country, the north east suffers from particularly high levels, including 29% of children in Sunderland, 33% in Newcastle, and 37% in Middlesbrough.[2] The figures for Bridget’s constituency of Houghton and Sunderland South were only marginally better, with over a third of children in Sandhill ward living in poverty after housing costs were taken into account. Overall, more than 5,000 children in her constituency are classed as in poverty according to the methodology applied by the End Child Poverty Coalition.[3]

In February 2016, the Institute for Fiscal Studies published projections showing that child poverty will rise from 2.3m (2011-12) to 3.6m by 2020 on the statutory Before Housing Costs measure.[4] The End Child Poverty Coalition is warning that if the benefits freeze remains in place until the end of the decade, low income families will find it increasingly hard to pay for the same basic essentials as prices rise. At the same time, recent cuts to in-work support under Universal Credit will further penalise low income working families – pushing more working families below the poverty line.

End Child Poverty is calling on the Government to end the freeze on children’s benefits and to reverse the sharp cuts being introduced to in-work benefits under Universal Credit.

Reacting to the publication of the figures, Bridget Phillipson said:
“This new report by End Child Poverty Coalition makes deeply worrying reading.

“I am alarmed by figures showing that almost one in three children in the north east are currently living in poverty, including thousands in my constituency of Houghton and Sunderland South.

“This is clearly a growing problem in the region, particularly in its three biggest cities.

“The reforms to the benefits system introduced by the Conservatives over the last six years, including the freeze on benefits, cuts to the work allowance and the replacement of tax credits with Universal Credit, have had a very damaging impact upon levels child poverty across the country.

“Despite confirmation from the Office for Budget Responsibility last month that people will be worse off on Universal Credit than on tax credits, the government is still pressing ahead with the roll-out of this failed scheme.[5]

“That is why I support calls by the End Child Poverty Coalition for the Chancellor to reverse his predecessor’s cuts to the benefit system and take action on child poverty.”

Chair of End Child Poverty Sam Royston said:
“As the Prime Minister has rightly recognised, this is not a country that works for everyone. In every community, there are children being denied the happy childhoods and the good start in life other children take for granted. Our children are now twice as likely to be poor as our pensioners.

“Many families who are just about managing today, won’t be managing tomorrow if Universal Credit leaves them with fewer pounds in their pocket, and if rising costs of living means their money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.

“We urge the Chancellor to reverse the significant cuts to Universal Credit targeted at working families and, at the very least, shield children’s benefits from inflation.”

References

[1] The End Child Poverty Coalition is made up of nearly 100 organisations from civic society including children’s charities, child welfare organisations, social justice groups, faith groups, trade unions and others. Its national report on child poverty, which revealed that 28.5% children in the north east are living in poverty, can be found alongside an interactive map here.

[2] The figures are estimates of child poverty in different areas, calculated using HMRC data and the Labour Force Survey. These estimates aren’t directly comparable with the 'households below average income' figure of 3.9 million children in poverty in the UK, due to different methodologies and rounding. An explanatory note of how these estimates are produced is available here.

[3] The local data has been produced to correspond as closely as possible to the measure of low income used by the government in its regional and national data. However, direct comparisons between the two data sets should not be made.

[4] IFS projections for child poverty can be found here (table B.2). 

[5] See page 26 of the Office for Budget Responsibility's October 2016 Welfare Trends Report.

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